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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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130 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I'd like to do a little chronicle reporting what I do to my 280E, and the problems I have along the way, so I can ask for advice as I go along. What I want to do is consolidate my dumb questions into a single "thread" to avoid having to initiate a new one EVERY time I have something stupid to ask. And maybe this will entertain someone along the way.

I am not exactly new here, and everything I have put on this forum has been leading up to this time, so I won't be starting from the beginning when I first acquired the car.

*For those who are NOT familiar with this car*
I WILL start off saying this car is extremely rusty for a car given to a sixteen-year-old to get licensed in. It started off as a 1981 European 200 model before the engine was replaced (1985?) with the M110 it has now. I believe a US soldier owned it in Bremen, Germany until about that time. By the time I got it, it had rust in all the expected areas (floors, rocker sills, fenders, doors, sunroof, trunk floor, etc...). And now, I have practically sold my soul to this car, learning how to weld, grind, cut, and generally work sheet metal.

I am not going to bore anyone with anything else, so I will put some pictures up here to show where I am at. I should be updating this whenever I do anything significant, probably asking questions as I go.

Pictures should be below:
 

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Euro Triad '84 280se '83 280e '85 500se
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256 Posts
Great idea, I look forward to seeing what challenges and solutions you face because I too have a euro 280e
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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130 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Here's my first separate update, with a lot of pictures.

I have been struggling for several months trying to get my glued-on fenders off so I can get at the rusty sections behind them. Well, I finally managed to get them off using the recommended method of torching and burning the whole seam of PVC sealant. Both fenders came off quite cleanly, with very little fuss. The left fender lower mounting bolts had rusted to the point I had to cut them off completely, but that was the only real complication. When both fenders were detached, I took my grinder-with-wire-wheel and brushed away the undercoating around the front jack points, as well as a few other areas in that region.

I know there is a lot of rust that got between the tack weld seams, and although I am not sure how I am going to fix it, I am not just gonna slather on some POR-15 and call it good. Also, unfortunately, I learned the hard way how toxic burning PVC fumes are without a face mask. I recommend wearing respiratory protection to anyone doing this, or you will feel quite lousy afterwards.
 

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'89 300E Turbo project, ‘85 Audi Coupe Quattro, ‘71 BMW turbo 2002, '73 BMW 2002tii, ‘67 Kaiser M725
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17,617 Posts
Get a 2 part epoxy primer if you don’t want rust to come back where you are grinding.
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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130 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Get a 2 part epoxy primer if you don’t want rust to come back where you are grinding.
Do you mean that Eastwood stuff? During my introduction to laying fiberglass, I have gained a great deal of respect for hard epoxy/resin-based coatings. Would it act as an encapsulator for the rust I cannot access with my grinder?
 

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'89 300E Turbo project, ‘85 Audi Coupe Quattro, ‘71 BMW turbo 2002, '73 BMW 2002tii, ‘67 Kaiser M725
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17,617 Posts
I use PPG , don’t have any experience with the Eastwood stuff. Yes, it closes it off from oxygen and therefor no more rust.
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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130 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Thursday's update doesn't cover much, but it is indeed one of those little things that reward you as you go along.

After I found myself a gallon of Simple Green, I felt compelled to go clean the engine compartment and forward structure on Rusty. I spent a good 2 nights with a plastic brush and a garden hose, as well as the aforementioned SG cleaner, to bring it to where it is now. I also used that time to make sure all the drain channels and cool little water redirection and deflection systems were clear and functioning normally. During this time, I noticed a lot of little drainage channels I hadn't noticed before, like on the triangular reinforcement plates on top of the inner fenders. It's amazing how well they designed the whole drainage system on these cars.

Most of the time I actually spent looking over the car carefully and examining the whole unibody as close as I could for the purpose of assisting me in planning out how I will be repairing the rust (forgive me if I take this too seriously). I am hoping if I leave the A-Pillar, bulkhead, outer rocker panel, and frame horn mostly intact while I try to fix the torsion box and inner sill (including everything in that vicinity...), that the car won't lose any rigidity while I am cutting or welding. I think I am starting to go insane, any good ideas would be welcome.

I gave the car its periodic engine run, like I do every 2 weeks or so (until I get into the fuel system), and I noticed a slight annoyance. After the engine has been running for about 5 minutes, and I go to turn it off, the engine shudders somewhat hideously before it stops. Would this be related to gummy fuel injectors or worn distributor c&r, both of which I have found? If not, I'll worry about it later, perhaps when the body is solid!
 

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'89 300E Turbo project, ‘85 Audi Coupe Quattro, ‘71 BMW turbo 2002, '73 BMW 2002tii, ‘67 Kaiser M725
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17,617 Posts
I really don’t like how you’re using those jack stands. Most importantly how they are on the gravel with not even a piece of plywood under the feet. Secondly, that’s the worst place to ‘hold up’ your W123 in the front.

Regards,
The Wet Blanket
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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130 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Sunday's update:

Boy, have I been busy, and have many pictures to prove it. I solved my jack stand problem, cleaned and (somewhat) polished my valve cover, cut out more rust, and am currently in the process of carefully removing the left side "Hood Spring Side Pocket Panel" for easier access to the rust on the firewall.

When I cut out the section of the floor you people see below, I was surprised how little rust there was on the internal jacking point frame thingie, and in that area in general. I was also surprised how well the metal on the outside cleaned up, rubber undercoating and all. I have been thinking intensely how I am going to fix that big rust hole on the end of the rocker, and that has involved many hours (at least for me) of analyzing the way the sheet metal parts were assembled. I plan to repair rusty sections of the car one at a time to avoid weakening the structure of the body, ideally (for a naive idiot like me) using butt welds wherever I can, to minimize the possibility of further corrosion in the future.

My attempt to remove the spring pocket panel has been going much better than I expected, being able to minimize having to use the noisy angle grinder, which is loud enough to wake the dead. My eccentric method involves using a cheap spot-weld cutting bit and a tiny metal drill bit (to guide the spot-weld cutter). My reasons for using this method are shown by how little material has been lost, no real deformities, and no clumsy cut-off wheel action. It takes a little time and skill to operate, but I recommend a spot weld drill bit to remove parts very cleanly. Plus, you've got holes to recreate the factory spot welds, if you desire to do so.

Inside the rocker panels, lining the inner surface, is a waxy substance, definitely an anti-rust cavity wax agent. Is this substance related to or does it happen to be Waxoyl or Cosmoline? When the rust repairs are complete, I'd like to spray an additional amount of the stuff into there, and I don't know how they will react with each other if the addition is different than the original wax.

That's all I've got for today, 'stick' around for more keyboard-bashing ways to waste time. Due to my highly unstable Internet connection, not all pictures may have been unloaded onto here.
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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Discussion Starter #12
'Official' Monday update:

The side panel came off relatively easily. However, the rust in this "trough" area is pretty deep. The rust has worked its way underneath the spot-welded panels, and through the bulkhead contours. I actually anticipate little to no complications working with this area, but knowing me, I am not going to get too comfortable.

It is impressive how localized the actual rust is on the sheet metal. It starts along the seam, and goes out to about 6/8ths of an inch. I think I am going to be able to fix this, but I will need opinions when that time comes.

I know I keep saying I am going to start welding the car soon, but at the moment, I do not actually own a welder. Financially, things may be better in the summer. For the moment, I will continue to work with what I have.
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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Discussion Starter #13
Friday's Update:

I haven't really achieved a whole lot, other than the fact that I was finally able to pull the dashboard and steering wheel. Since I did not have the 10mm Allen bit required to remove the steering wheel, I tried taking the dashboard out with it in place. That was not a good idea. So, before I damaged the loose dashboard, I remembered the miracle of Hardware Sales (our local hardware store- probably one of the best out there) and got myself the proper Allen bit. With the steering wheel off, the dashboard came out quite easily. Now I have access to my firewall/bulkhead!

Sorry for the dumb anecdote, I do that a lot.

Naturally, I am thinking about how I am going to get the dash back in when that time comes. Is anyone willing to share any tips?
 

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1984 280TE Euro; 1983 240D; (Sold)1982 300D Turbo
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188 Posts
Oh and big kudos for taking on this task and documenting it! Its something I would love to do to my 280TE, I've subscribed to this tread!
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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Discussion Starter #16
Take out the windshield. Plus you most likely have rust under your seal too.
I intend to take it out anyway so I can replace the seal. There are deposits on the two bottom corners of the windshield that indicate water has been that way, which I think is another factor involved in why the floor is so bad. There are a few small regions of rust under the rear window seal, so I am certainly going to remove the rear window (rear windshield?) as well. We are busy constructing a PNW-proof replacement garage for the 90-year-old rotten pole-building we have right now, and when it is finished, I will be able to take the windows off of Rusty without worrying about RAIN. Garage aside, I just hope I can get new seals for both windows whilst avoiding URO's bad reputation.

Oh and big kudos for taking on this task and documenting it! Its something I would love to do to my 280TE, I've subscribed to this tread!
Thanks for the support! This car just sort of fell into my life, and I feel somewhat obligated to do what I can to preserve this little piece of "history". Plus, I love the car and don't want it to end up at the local Pick-n-Pull.

You have a 280TE? I would love to see pictures of it. Does it have a floor?
 

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1984 280TE Euro; 1983 240D; (Sold)1982 300D Turbo
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Haha! Yes, it has a floor! We probably share a lot of the same rust as Hawaii is wet like Washington! I'll find some pics to post for you of may wagon! The M110 loves the freeway and is a blast to drive. Regards!
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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130 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Here's a quick pic!
You've got a real beauty there, I love the color! All the wagons I see around here are rustier than the Titanic.

Contrary to what I said before, we haven't actually been getting a whole lot of rain lately. I have had many more opportunities to go out and work on Rusty than I normally would be able to, but the weather can change in 45 minutes or less. I have been putting an excess of spray lubricant/water displacer (NOT WD40) on all the exposed bare metal of the car in case we get a random downpour (it just makes me more comfortable).

I haven't had a whole lot of time available with Rusty these past few days, but I did manage to repaint the gauge pointer needles on the instrument cluster an "authentic" enamel Gloss Tangerine color, I pulled the throttle linkage assembly off the engine and cleaned/degreased the works, and cleaned up the rubber seals around the triangular window on the left rear door. We are going to try to purchase a simple MIG welder, possibly in the summer (when income is more stable) so I can get the rust repair out of the way. Have I mentioned how much I want to drive this poor car?

It's been pretty slow lately, hopefully more interesting stuff will be coming shortly.

-The Assimilated One
 

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1981 W123 280E "Rusty"
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Discussion Starter #20
Update for Friday:

I didn't have much I was able to do, so I decided to lube my door latches, à la MercedesSource. That's when I stumbled on a little mystery.

The door latches on this car have a tendency to (uh-oh, long description) spontaneously lock themselves after the door handles are pulled, particularly the right-side doors. Sometimes, they stay unlocked for a few openings, only to randomly latch shut, usually in the freezing cold darkness with me carrying something heavy (not exclusively). However, if I pull the door handle quickly, it won't lock the door. The left rear door did it for a while, but I cured that by squirting a load of ATF all over it. I thought doing that would also fix the right rear door's problem, but unsurprisingly, it did not.

I removed the latch mechanism itself from the door and was able to identify the problem. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. On the picture below, it shows the actuator arm (with the pull slot) with the groove on the other end of it, and an "elbow" joint with a pin that slides inside the groove. The groove has a little hill on it (which keeps it in the "unlocked" position), but the pin is just barely clearing the hill. When the door is opened, the downward force overcomes the little friction holding the pin where it should be, locking the door. I have tried adjusting the tensioner spring, repositioned things, I even put it in a vise to try to bend the assemblage to the right distance. It didn't work.

So, what I want to know is why it doesn't go all the way in the groove. Is it just wear and tear (lack of lubrication)? A manufacturing defect? I could probably just buy another latch, but I want to exercise myself and see if I can repair it.

That's all for today. Like I keep saying, I hope more interesting stuff is able to occur in the future.
 

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